There´s something about the religious buildings in Asia that does magic to you. Yes, we do have some impressive ones in Europe as well, especially some of the Cathedrals in southern Europe.
But they are still nothing compared to the most impressive religious buildings in Asia. Some of the Asian monuments might not be that dramatic in scale, but what they lack in size, they emerge bigger in a spiritual way.
Here is my list of the ten most impressive religious buildings in Asia, after visiting every single Asian country.
The least famous one on my list is also least visited by foreign tourists. Even so, it´s the larget´s monastery in India and second largest in the world (after Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.)
Founded in 1681 with close proximity to the birthplace of the 5th Dalai Lama. It’s located in far north-east India, in the Arunachal Pradesh state and rarely visited by foreigners because of the hassle in obtaining a permit for the state. I think that makes it even more special. It is home to about 450 monks, from all ages. It´s a complete working monastery with no interaction from tourists.
When I first entered the monastery, I was surrounded by monks who wanted to practice their English.
I believe that Tawang Monastery and Arunachal Pradesh are the most underrated destinations in India.
Potala Palace, Tibet.
It is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It used to be the winter home to the Dalai Lamas from the 17th century and all the way up to 1959.
Apparently, it has 1000 rooms with personal belongings of at least 5 Dalai Lamas.
You are not allowed to walk around freely, and you have to be a part of an organised tour. Your tickets need to be booked by your guide several days in advance. Even though it´s not the home to the Dalai Lama anymore (he lives in Dharamshala, India), it is still a breathtaking complex.
The Tiger´s Nest Monastery is located on the edge of cliff 900m/3000ft above the valley’s floor in western Bhutan.
The monastery, locally called Taktshang Goemba, was built in 1692 around a cave where Guru Rinpoche stayed and meditated for three years, three months, three days and 3 hours in order to overpower the evil demons living inside the cave.
It´s still a working monastery with meditating monks.
Only accessible by a two-hour hike.
The 1400-year-old Hanging Monastery is just a few hours south of Beijing. The Monastery is built into a cliff more than 50m above the ground, to protect it from the floods that often happens in the area.
It is said to be the only Monastery in China that has a combination of the three traditional Chinese religions – Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
The city of Amritsar and its famous Golden Temple are not only one of the most underrated destinations in India, but they might be the most friendly and welcoming place in the whole country.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the holiest of all Gurdwara (Temple). It is to Sikhs what Mecca is to Muslims, Jerusalem is to Christians, and Lumbini is to Buddhists.
Borobudur at the Island of Java in Indonesia is the single largest Buddhist structure anywhere on earth. Dating back to the 8th century, the temple holds nearly 2,700 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. It is famous for its amazing sunrise. It is not a working complex anymore but very crowded by tourists these days.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
The largest temple in the history of mankind, Angkor Wat dates back to the early 12th century. The world-famous temple was earlier a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In the 14th or 15th century, when Buddhism swept across Asia, it became a Buddhist temple.
Voted on Lonely Planet as the world’s number 1 site.
The temple is the heart and soul of Cambodia and is even featured on the country´s flag.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in all of Myanmar. The Pagoda itself is covered with 27 tons of gold. It´s believed that Shwedagon holds eight hairs from Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas.
The legend of the Shwedagon Pagoda begins with two Burmese merchant brothers who are said to have met the Buddha himself. The Buddha gave them eight of his hairs to be enshrined in Burma.
Sümela is a 1,600-year-old ancient Orthodox monastery in far eastern Turkey.
Sumela Monastery was abandoned in 1923, following forced population exchanges between Greece and Turkey.
The departing monks were not allowed to take anything with them, so they buried Sumela’s famous icon under the floor of the monastery’s St. Barbara chapel.
Today Sumela Monastery is, unfortunately, no more than a tourist attraction these days.
The Lotus Temple in New Delhi is the mother temple of the Indian Subcontinent. It was created to be a place of worship for all faiths and religions.
The world-famous Lotus temple is made of pure marble and is shaped like the lotus flower.
The temple is open to everyone, but you’re strictly not allowed to take photos inside the temple. The lotus is surrounded by a big green park making it a relaxing place. Try to get there early in the morning, before the crowds start to arrive.
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